Motherhood & Words

a note about the Vanda and patience

My favorite plant is the Vanda Rothschildiana. It hangs in the window of our dining room, its long stem twisting around itself, as if it’s reaching for the sun. When it blooms, its huge buds open to reveal lavender petals the size of a child’s hand.
I inherited this plant from Mimi, with whom D and I lived for three and a half years just after we were married. (In exchange for rent, D and I took Mimi for errands and did chores around her house.) My favorite task was watering and caring for Mimi’s extensive orchid collection. Mimi loved her orchids and I, in turn, loved Mimi. So when she died, I asked her granddaughter if I could choose one of the orchids. I chose one of Mimi’s favorites—the Vanda.
But the Vanda didn’t bloom and it didn’t bloom. I assumed our house wasn’t humid enough, and I’d resigned myself to waiting until—someday, maybe—we would have a small greenhouse of our own in which to house it. But then two years ago (three years after inheriting it), I was watering it and wiping down its petals in the kitchen sink when I noticed a long bud peeking from beneath its leaves. I squealed and called D at work, my eyes full of tears. I could imagine Mimi’s excitement, and it was almost as if she was there in the room with me. But that’s not the only reason I started to cry. It was as if the Vanda blooming (finally, after I had almost given up hope) was a sign: we just need to be patient; our hard work will eventually pay off.

I always tell my students that as writers they need to be patient and persistent. Don’t stop after their first rejection (or tenth or twentieth or one hundredth). If they feel they must write, they must not stop. But I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to stay perpetually optimistic. To wait and wait and wait, to keep going when it feels you have been going and going and working and working. It wears you down.
The last six months the Vanda has been struggling. Many of its leaves have fallen off; the remaining ones seem dry, wilty. I was worried that I would have to let it go. But I wasn’t ready to give up on it, so I called for advice. I repotted it (twice). Finally, I removed all the bark in the pot, cut away more of the dead roots, and I left it suspended in the clay pot, white roots hanging down like a bleached skeleton. Now I spray it with warm water every morning. I douse it in the sink once a week. And in the last weeks, new roots have begun to sprout along the spines of old roots and it is no longer losing leaves.
Again, the Vanda seems to be trying to tell me something. The truth is that I have been worn down this last year. I have contemplated giving up—or seriously scaling back on—my loves (teaching and writing and editing) because I’ve been tired—stretched—and I thought that not only would it be more lucrative to get an office job, it also might be satisfying to go to an office, to do set tasks, to be paid for these tasks.
But I wasn’t ready to stop. I wasn’t ready to turn my back. And so I continued doing what I do: writing and teaching and editing and waiting—waiting for new life.
I got it.
Last week, I signed the contract for my first book. (I can’t believe I just wrote those words!) Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, the book based on my Mother Words class, will be published by Viva Editions Spring 2012. (Again, I can’t believe I just wrote those words!)
Thank you to all of you for reading when I’m discouraged, for writing words that inspire me, for not giving up on your own dreams. This is for you, too. Thank you. 

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Elizabeth on April 18, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Oh my gosh! What a wonderful lead-up to fantastic news! Congratulations — I can't wait to see this new book, your baby — Yay!

  2. kate hopper on April 18, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Thank you, dear Elizabeth!

  3. Kim Z. on April 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    How wonderful, Kate! Congratulations to you! And I got teary reading your post. I can picture the Vanda and know how much you loved Mimi (and we did, too). She surely is proud of your persistence and care for her special Vanda and is proud of your accomplishments in writing, too. Best wishes to you and a huge congratulations! Thanks for sharing.

  4. kate hopper on April 18, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you, Kim! I thought about you while I was writing this, hoping that you would read it. (Kim and her husband lived with Mimi after we did!) Mimi loved you guys so much, too!

  5. Chryselle on April 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Congratulations! What fabulous news! Looking forward to hearing more of the book.

  6. kate hopper on April 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks, Chryselle!

  7. Sara on April 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Congratulations, Kate—what exciting news!

  8. carolyn / caro on April 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Congratulations, Kate! I know this will be a wonderful book … and you know you'll have an enthusiastic cadre of marketing assistants when the time comes!

  9. Kaethe on April 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Congratulations, Kate! It's always nice to hear about someone getting a "happy ending" for a deserving manuscript. Hope you're celebrating!!!

  10. finding words on April 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I am ecstatic, Kate. And, not because you are not talented or deserving. But all things being equal, they are not, as the saying goes (more often than not, I would add). I cannot wait to read your book. CONGRATULATIONS!

  11. LutherLiz on April 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    How wonderful! Fantastic fantastic news! Even having gone through your (wonderful) class I can't wait to read it!

  12. Amber on April 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    {{{big huge hugs}}} Yay! Congratulations! I'm thrilled for you! And so excited to see your book!

  13. kate hopper on April 18, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks, ladies. I'm blushing!! Your encouragement means so much to me!

  14. Melissa on April 19, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Congratulations! And hooray! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Your name! On the cover! Your words! On the pages! YAY!!!

  15. Mary on April 19, 2011 at 2:08 am

    YAY – I'm so excited for you!!! And can't wait to read it either!

  16. Joy Riggs on April 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Great post, Kate! I am so excited for you. And, selfishly, as a student of yours, I'm glad you didn't take an office job. You are an inspiration to so many of us who are trying to juggle writing and parenting. Your book will help even more moms tell their important stories.

  17. kate hopper on April 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Melissa and Mary and Joy, thank you so much! (And I'm glad I didn't take the office job, as well, Joy!)

  18. Alexis on April 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Dear Kate,
    Well done! This is fantastic.
    Can't wait to buy my copy!!!
    Alexis xx

  19. Leightongirl on April 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    This is just the best news I've had all year. Congratulations, my friend! The happy dance is getting danced over here. I just know this book will find the beautiful readers it deserves, and that your words and advice will be exactly what others need and want to hear. You have such important lessons to teach, and now they will be taught at large.

  20. Toby's Mom on April 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Congratulations again, Kate! I'm so thrilled for you, and really, no one deserves this more than you! I can't wait to see it in print. I'd pre-order it today if I could.

  21. kristenspina on April 20, 2011 at 8:33 am

    A beautiful post, and wonderful news to share. I am so happy for you, Kate. Congratulations! May it be the first of many!!

  22. Cecilia on April 20, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Kate, congratulations – such wonderful news!! I remember your mentioning this book! I am so proud of you and am so thrilled that you can type those unbelievable words!! Please keep us posted and I will be first in line to get the book!! xoxo

  23. cath c on April 20, 2011 at 11:04 am

    congratulations, and excellent advice i needed to hear right now. also beautiful blooms

  24. 6512 and growing on April 22, 2011 at 11:40 am

    That is absolutely fabulous news! And sounds like a great book that I would love to read.
    It's intense work, this writing and writing and seeking publishing and payment for all this work. So unpredictable! And one must be self-motivated, Whew!


  25. Christina on April 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    What great news! Congratulations, and I'm totally buying it.

  26. unfinishedportraitofsam on April 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    i love this post. i love your news. : )

  27. Shannon on April 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Congratulations, Kate!! I'm very happy for you. I can't wait to buy (and read) your book!

  28. Andria on April 29, 2011 at 1:16 am

    CONGRATULATIONS, Kate!! This news made me so happy. You are so, so deserving.

    (Also….I will be keeping your grandpa in my thoughts, & you too. I know you are very close to him.)